By Jenna Lebovits
In 1999, Rio de Janeiro native Ludmilla “Milla” Benevides moved from Brazil to the United States to pursue a career in bossa nova music, carrying a taste of her roots with her. When the singer was 7 years old, her father was transferred to the São Paulo countryside to work in a water plant. Benevides says that as early as she can remember there was always pão de queijo as part of the meal, which now serves as her brand’s inspiration: homemade, naturally gluten-free pão de queijo, or cheese bread, as she calls it. Milla’s Puffs—Benevides’ line of frozen cheesy delights—is produced with six locally sourced, non-GMO ingredients and tapioca flour imported from Brazil.
Growing up in a family that valued the importance of cooking and eating high-quality food together is the guiding force for her business. Throughout her time on and offstage, the singer recalls bringing flavorful snacks—Brazilian delicatessen gluten-free cheese puffs—to rehearsals and events for all to enjoy. Benevides now crafts her bite-size morsels with a heritage recipe that she has developed over the past five years. The at-home process is simple and convenient: heat the oven to 400 degrees, place the cocktail-size bites on a baking sheet and in 17 minutes, they are ready to enjoy. Larger dinner roll-size buns bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. For an elevated experience, she recommends stuffing them with your favorite cold cut or vegetable. “It becomes like a little luxe sandwich, and it’s lighter than a regular bagel,” says Benevides. “You don’t feel like you’re eating a lot, and it’s a perfect cocktail size for any occasion, event or party.”
What began as an homage to her roots and community quickly evolved into a large-scale business operation. Today, Milla’s Puffs are available for sale at local farmers markets and a range of specialty shops such as Provisions in Water Mill and Sag Harbor, Serene Green in Sag Harbor, Nurel’s in Hampton Bays, Eastport General Store, Iavarone Brothers in Wantagh, IGA in Southold and more. While Milla’s Puffs has seen quick success online and in the Hamptons, the brand’s founder remains humble and excited for what the future holds, and plans to expand her offerings. “There is nothing better than sharing our culture in a country that gave me the opportunity to express my passion for music and food.” millaspuffs.com